A good workout should never feel easy—the whole point of exercise is to challenge yourself enough so your body has to adapt to get stronger, faster, fitter. But no matter how tough any workout is, there’s always a subjective element to it, depending on your mood and mindset at the time, exercise can feel harder or easier than it should.
Instead of feeling like you have to slog through 45- or 60-minute workouts at a time, your main goal is to get up to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (or some combo of the two).
Rather than a scheduling an hour-long workout, go for shorter ones throughout the day or week, and your exercise minutes will add up.
Play the right jams
Listening to upbeat, fast-paced songs with a tempo of 170 to 190 beats per minute reduced the perceived effort associated with endurance exercise and increased the overall benefits of a workout, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. That’s likely because the music, an external stimulus, blocks inner stimuli, like fatigue.
Smile (or at least fake it)
Sure it’s hard to paste a grin on your face when you’re sweating, wheezing, and generally working your ass off. But runners who smiled used less oxygen, ran more efficiently, and reported a lower rate of perceived exertion (or RPE) compared to those who frowned during their run in a study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise.
That does mean you should force yourself to grin through the duration of your workout. But smiling during the gruelling parts will have physiological effects like reducing muscle tension. Everything in your body is connected, so tensing even your face can affect the rest of your muscles and make a workout feel harder
Hype yourself up
Negative self-talk is essentially self-sabotage. The pain will be there, but if we magnify it, then it will consume us. Positive self-talk, on the other hand, was shown to boost athletic endurance in a scientific review of more than 100 sources published in the journal Sports Medicine.
Positive self-talk connects us to our self-belief, our self-worth, our motivation as to why we’re doing a workout. But instead of telling yourself “I can do this,” try saying “you can do this”—a recent study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that athletes who used the second person were faster and generated more power.
Work out with a dedicated friend
People who exercised with someone they thought was better than them worked out up to 200 percent harder and longer than others, a study conducted at Kansas State University found, and those who worked out with people had double the pain tolerance compared to when they worked out solo, according to Oxford University research. Basically, you can push yourself harder without making it feel harder if you have a partner in sweat.
When people practiced mindfulness techniques for 30 minutes twice a week, they were able to work out longer without feeling exhausted, according to a recent study published in Neural Plasticity. The authors suggested that may be due to improved breathing and posture. Being mindful is easier said than done, but practicing outside of your workout will make it easier for you to reach that state when you are breaking a sweat.
Keep your gaze focused
It’s tempting to look around for distractions while you’re working out, but narrowing your gaze can help you move faster and lower your rate of perceived exertion, reported a study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.